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How many times have you heard someone say they want to make a better world? It is a noble sentiment, but very hard to achieve, right?

Well, actually, it’s quite easy. All we have to do is increase just one human trait. This trait is so powerful that it alone can make people happier without working on their happiness, and make them better – and by “better,” I mean more generous, more honest, more kind, more everything good – without a single lesson in morality.

So, then, what is this one almost magical thing? Drumroll, please.

It’s gratitude.

You can’t be a happy person if you aren’t grateful, and you can’t be a good person if you aren’t grateful. Almost everything good flows from gratitude, and almost everything bad flows from ingratitude.

Let’s begin with ingratitude. Here’s a rule of life: ingratitude guarantees unhappiness. It is as simple as that. There isn't an ungrateful happy person on Earth. And there isn’t an ungrateful good person on Earth. There are two reasons.

Reason one is victimhood. Ingratitude always leads to or comes from victimhood. Ungrateful people—by definition—think of themselves as victims. And perceiving oneself as a victim or perceiving oneself as a member of a victim group may be the single biggest reason people hurt other people—from hurtful comments to mass murder. People who think of themselves as victims tend to believe that because they’ve been hurt by others, they can hurt others.

And the second reason ungrateful people aren’t good people is that ingratitude is always accompanied by anger. The ungrateful are angry, and angry people lash out at others. If ingratitude makes people unhappy and mean, then gratitude must make people happy and kind.

And so it does. Think of the times you have felt most grateful—were they not always accompanied by a feeling of happiness? Weren’t they also accompanied by a desire to be kinder to other people? The answer, of course, is yes. Grateful people aren’t angry and they also don’t see themselves as victims.

The problem, however—and it’s a big one, is that in America and much of the rest of the world, people are becoming less grateful. Why? Because people are constantly told that they are entitled to things they haven’t earned—what are known as “benefits” or “entitlements.” And the more things that people think they should get, the less grateful they will be for whatever they do get. And the more angry—and therefore unhappy—they will be when they don’t get them.

Here are two rules of life. Rule number one: The less you feel entitled to, the more gratitude you will feel for whatever you get and the happier you will be. Rule number two: The more you feel entitled to, the less happy you will be. That’s why, for example, children who get whatever they want are usually less happy children. We have a word for such children: spoiled. And no one thinks of a spoiled child as a happy child, and certainly not a kind one.

The more that you feel that life or society owes you, the angrier you will get, the less happy you will be. As a result, we are increasing the number of angry, unhappy, and selfish people. The other way we are making people unhappy, and even meaner, is by cultivating a sense of victimhood. People are constantly told that they are victims because of their upbringing, because of past prejudice against their group, because of material inequality, because they are female, and for many other reasons.

Next time you want to assess any social policy, ask this question first: Will this policy increase or decrease gratitude among people? You will then know whether it is something that will bring more goodness and happiness to the world—or less.

If I were granted one wish, it would be that all people be grateful. Gratitude is the source of happiness, and the source of goodness; and the more good people, and the more happy people there are walking around, the happier and better our world will be. If you have a way of achieving such a world without increasing gratitude, let me know what it is.
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  |  9296 learners#Social #Essays

67 segments Intermediate Male
The Copperpod tree was in full bloom. Vibrant and vivacious it swayed gracefully from side to side, sending down a shower of copper yellow petals.

“Gosh, you’re beautiful!” exclaimed the other trees.

The Copperpod tree stood up straight and rustled its leaves, clearly enjoying the attention.

A gust of wind blew through the forest causing all the trees to bend westwards.

“Oh no…my flowers!” cried the Copperpod tree, trying its best to stand still.

Another gust of wind sent the trees swaying the other way.

“That’s enough!” said the Copperpod tree, as a bunch of flowers fell from its top most branches, “I’ve just about had enough!”

All the other trees turned to look.

“Now look here Mr. Wind, I refuse to dance to your tunes anymore! I wish to sway by myself! Not the way you want me to!” said the Copperpod tree firmly.

A gentle whisper broke out among the trees.

The wind stopped blowing. The din of dead silence rang through the forest.

A moment later the wind swept through the air again. It circled around the trees and made a whooshing sound. But it never touched the Copperpod tree.

The Copperpod tree watched the other trees giggle as the wind tickled their branches. Then it turned the other way and admired its flowers. Out of the corner of its eye it looked to see if any tree was watching. But they were all dancing with the wind.

The Copperpod tree tried to ruffle its flowers. But it couldn’t. It tried to shake its branches. But it couldn’t. It tried to lean closer to the other trees. But it couldn’t. All it could do was stand still.

“Gosh, you’re beautiful!” said the trees.

A few days later, the Copperpod tree opened its tired eyes with a glimmer of hope. But the other trees were looking elsewhere. They were looking at the Gulmohar tree, which was ablaze with fiery red flowers. It was scattering its petals in the air like tiny sparks of fire. The wind blew around it; tousling its branches and making its flowers flush an even brighter red.

Nobody paid any attention to the Copperpod tree which was all bent now. There wasn’t a single copper yellow flower on it. Dried flowers and leaves still clung to its branches.

The Copperpod tree let out a groan. Its trunk was hurting from standing so still. It longed to sway at least once! But the wind refused to even come near it.

“Alright, Mr. Wind, I’m sorry! The truth is that I need you,” sighed the Copperpod tree. It felt a slight waft of air near its side. The wind had come closer to listen.

“I know I’m a big beautiful tree, with lovely flowers and healthy branches and a nice strong trunk. But all that doesn’t matter, if all I can do is be still!” said the Copperpod tree.

“I want to sprinkle my petals over the little children that sit beneath me. I want to reach out my branches and kiss the sky. I want to stretch and protect the people that take shelter under me. I want to dance again. I want to be a living, breathing tree that sways with the wind!” the Copperpod tree hunched lower, unable to even stand up straight anymore.

A gentle breeze floated over the Copperpod tree. It started out at its roots, awakening them from their slumber. It travelled upwards wrapping itself around its trunk and permeating through its gnarled branches. It gave the tree a little shake, causing its dried flowers and leaves to fall away. It nuzzled the little flower buds which started blooming. The wind encompassed the Copperpod tree in a giant hug and swayed with it in a soft gentle dance.

The Copperpod tree threw its branches around the wind and danced like it had never danced before!
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  |  9820 learners#General #Stories

Halloween is a popular festival in many countries all over the world, and every year it seems to get bigger. It's getting dark earlier and it's starting to get cold. Christmas is still a long way away. We need something to cheer us up and take our minds off the fact that winter is nearly here. Find out some more about the traditional festival of Halloween.

The festival of Halloween has its roots in Celtic and Roman traditions. Over 2000 years ago the Celts in Britain, Ireland and parts of France celebrated Samhain to mark the beginning of winter. When the Romans invaded, they merged this with Feralia, their celebration of the passing of the dead. As Christianity spread, the Church tried to replace these pagan feasts with official Church holy days. One of these was November 1. It was called All Saints Day, or All Hallows, and October 31 was known as All Hallows Eve, and then Halloween.

In the past there was a tradition called souling. Poor people went around houses asking for food. In exchange, they promised to say prayers for the dead. People no longer go souling, but the habit has been transformed into a modern Halloween game for children in America, who dress up as ghosts, witches and monsters and go around people's houses, asking for sweets. This game is called Trick or Treat.

Halloween wouldn't be fun without witches. Witches have always been part of popular folklore. Shakespeare's play Macbeth opens with three witches. A witch was someone, usually a woman, who had special powers and had dealings with the devil. The American town, Salem, in the state of Massachusetts, is famous for the witchcraft trials, which took place there in 1692.

The pumpkin has become a symbol of Halloween. People empty a pumpkin, cut a face into the side, and put a candle inside to make a lamp. It's known as a Jack-o'-lantern, from an Irish legend about a man called Jack, who made a deal with the devil.

Black cats, frogs, mice and spiders are just some of the animals associated with Halloween. Generally, the more unpleasant the animal, the stronger the Halloween connection. Nocturnal animals like bats are particular favourites, and if, as is the case with vampire bats, they like drinking blood, they are high on the Halloween list.
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  |  10070 learners#Culture #Essays

Many animal and plant species have become extinct and many more are in critical danger. Finding ways to protect the earth's wildlife and conserve the natural world they inhabit is now more important than ever.

Extinction is a natural process. Many species had ceased to exist before humans evolved. However, in the last 400 years, the number of animals and plants becoming extinct has reached crisis point. Human population levels have risen dramatically in the same time period and man's predatory instincts combined with his ruthless consumption of natural resources are directly responsible for the situation.

The dodo is a classic example of how human behaviour can cause irreparable damage to the earth's biological diversity. The flightless dodo was native to the Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. It lived off fruit fallen from the island's trees and lived unthreatened until humans arrived in 1505. The docile bird became a source of food for sailors and lacked the ability to protect itself from animals introduced to the island by humans such as pigs, monkeys and rats. The population of dodos rapidly decreased and the last one was killed in 1681.

In 2002, many animals remain threatened with extinction as a result of human activity. The World Wildlife Fund works tirelessly to raise awareness of the predicament facing these animals and find ways to protect them. By focusing on a number of high profile, charismatic icons such as the rhino, panda, whale and tiger, the WWF aims to communicate critically important environmental issues. The organization's ultimate goal is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.

The rhino horn is a highly prized item for practitioners of Asian medicine. This has led to the animal being relentlessly hunted in its natural habitat. Once widespread in Africa and Eurasia, most rhinos now live in protected natural parks and reserves. Their numbers have rapidly decreased in the last 50 years, over half the remaining rhinos disappeared in the 1970s, and the animals remain under constant threat from poachers.

The future of the WWF's symbol is far from certain. As few as 1000 remain in the wild, living in small isolated groups. These groups have been cut off from each other as a result of deforestation and human expansion into their natural habitat. The Chinese government has set up 33 panda reserves to protect these beautiful animals and made poaching them punishable with 20 years in prison. However, the panda's distinct black and white patched coat fetches a high price on the black market and determined poachers still pose one of the most serious threats to the animal's continued existence.

The International Whaling Commission meets every year. The agenda covers ways to ensure the survival of the species and the complex problems arising from countries such as Japan, wishing to hunt certain whales for scientific purposes. Despite the fact that one third of the world's oceans have been proclaimed whale sanctuaries, seven out of 13 whale species remain endangered. The plight of the North Atlantic Right Whale is particularly serious. Hunted for their rich supply of oil, their numbers have dwindled to just 300. Collisions with ships, toxic pollution and becoming entangled in fishing nets are other major causes of whale deaths.

The last 100 years has seen a 95 percent reduction in the numbers of remaining tigers to between 5000 and 7000 and the Bali, Javan, and Caspian tigers are already extinct. The South China tiger is precariously close to disappearing, with only 20-30 still alive. Like the rhino horn, tiger bones and organs are sought after for traditional Chinese medicines. These items are traded illegally along with tiger skins.

The WWF is actively involved in many areas of the world fighting to protect the natural habitats of endangered animals from further damage and curb the activities of poachers. They also work to influence governments and policy makers to introduce laws aimed at reducing the threat of pollution and deforestation. Our own individual efforts at home and in the workplace can also make a difference. By reducing waste and pollution, saving water, wood and energy, and reusing and recycling whenever possible, we can reduce the possibility of even more animals being lost, never to return.
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  |  10347 learners#Science #Lectures

Imagine a beach, a quiet place, with only the noise of the sea and the gulls in the background. There are boats floating near the shore and a few people swimming in the water next to them. It's a hot day, and there are some people lying on the sand enjoying the sunshine and slowly going brown. There are no shops, no people making noises, no loud music, everything is peaceful. There is just the sea, the sun, and the beach, a little paradise.

The beach is on the south coast of Scotland, near a little town called Gatehouse of Fleet in the county of Dumfries and Galloway. 22 years ago my family and I found this place for the first time and we have never really left it. Every year in the summer while other people go on holiday to foreign countries and exotic places, we go to our private paradise and relax. There is a little campsite with tents and caravans next to the beach, and this becomes our home for one month every year.

For a child a beach is a wonderful place. Here I found lots of space to run and play on the sand or to swim in the water. Being a campsite there were always lots of other families with children to play with. Another of my favourite activities was climbing on the rocks and cliffs around the beach. Rock pools were very educational places where I used to study the little fish and sea animals. Silence was also important, at school I was always surrounded by people and noise but the beach gave me the chance to be on my own and think, or read, away from anyone else.

Although the sea can be beautiful, this beach is sometimes a dangerous place to be. When the weather is bad there are often storms with strong winds. When this happens the waves can get up to 2-3 metres high, definitely not weather for swimming. Every year some of the boats anchored on the beach are lost because the sea is so rough. I remember holding down our tent to stop the wind blowing it away on many occasions. However, if the waves weren't too high all the children and some adults used to go swimming in life jackets, as it was very exciting.

Sailing is a very serious activity in the UK, and this beach is no different. There are large racing boats for three or more people, smaller boats such as the Topper for just one or two people, fishing boats and windsurfers. In fact people on this beach are willing to try any type of water-sport, water skiing, speed boating, even the recent sport of sail surfing is becoming popular. Over the years my family has had 4 different boats, from a small Topper to a large Caprice for racing. We have sailed, raced, and fished off the boats, and have even capsized in bad weather a few times.

If this beach had been next to a town or near a popular tourist area I don't think we would have continued going there. But its location is very beautiful indeed. It's in the middle of green countryside with many different types of plants and flowers, and in the background the hills of Galloway can be seen. Lots of photographers and artists come to the area also known as the Solway because they can capture such beautiful scenery.

Even after 22 years, the beach is still a sanctuary for me. It's a place away from the rest of the world where I can forget about life's problems, and just relax. In today's modern, busy world, everyone should have a place like this.
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  |  9473 learners#Science #Unclassified

During the past several decades, there have been major changes within most Western countries in people's attitudes toward sex, and in sexual behaviour. For people who have lived throughout this period, the changes have seemed quite remarkable. Until the early twentieth century, people in most Western countries did not have permissive attitudes regarding sexuality.

For the most part, young people were expected to wait until marriage before having sexual intercourse. Of course, some premarital sex did occur, and prostitution was not rare. However, sexual behaviour was relatively restricted. As the twentieth century progressed, there was a gradual trend toward liberalization of attitudes toward sex. However, this trend was greatly speeded after 1960, when the first birth control pills became available. These contraceptive pills made it possible for women to engage in sexual intercourse without much risk of an unwanted pregnancy. As a result, many women were more willing to have premarital sex than was previously the case.

Also during the 1960s, Western countries were reaching high levels of wealth and education. A new and very large generation of young people was approaching adulthood, and there was a mood of rebellion against traditional norms. There was an increase in the number of people who engaged in sex before marriage, and also a greater openness about such behaviour. By the 1970s, sexual attitudes had become quite liberal, and many young people were quite promiscuous in their sexual behaviour. However, this pattern reversed somewhat during the 1980s. There was increased concern about sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, moreover, many young women had been uncomfortable with the idea of unrestricted sexual behaviour. As a result, sexual attitudes became slightly more conservative during the 1980s and 1990s, although they remained much more liberal than in previous decades.

In the early twenty-first century, most young people in Western countries begin having sex during their high school years, although some people wait until they are considerably older. Some young people are promiscuous, but most engage in monogamous relationships that typically last for a period of several months or a few years. When one relationship ends, another usually begins soon after. This pattern usually continues until marriage. After marriage, most people have sex exclusively with their spouse, however, some people do commit adultery. Sexuality has changed a great deal in recent decades. It will be very interesting to see how people's sexual attitudes and behaviour will change in the future.
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  |  9171 learners#Education #Lectures

Charles Darwin made what might be the most important scientific discovery of all time the theory of evolution by natural selection. It was Darwin who first understood how it was that plants and animals evolved over time to produce new and different species. At first, this theory faced much opposition, but since that time it has been supported by evidence from many areas of science.

Darwin was born in a small town in England in 1809. When he was a young man, he went to university, first to study medicine, and later to study religion. However, Darwin found his schoolwork to be very boring. Instead, he preferred outdoor activities and was very interested in nature. While Darwin was at university, the British navy was planning to send one of its ships, called the Beagle, on a voyage of exploration. As part of this voyage, the ship would need a naturalist, who could study the various plants and animals that might be found. Darwin was recommended for this job by one of his professors, who had been impressed by Darwin. Darwin was chosen as the naturalist of the Beagle, and the ship left England in 1831. The ship's voyage took Darwin around the world, and he observed many species of plants and animals on his trip.

In one place near South America, known as the Galapagos Islands, Darwin observed many unusual species of birds. Several of these birds seemed closely related to each other, but they differed in interesting ways. For example, some birds had long beaks that could reach insects hidden in the bark of trees, but other birds had thick beaks that could break open the shells of nuts. What Darwin realized was that certain characteristics could help an animal or a plant to survive and reproduce. Individuals that lacked those characteristics would become more likely to die without reproducing.

Over many generations, the useful characteristics would then become more and more common, as the surviving individuals passed the characteristics on to their offspring. Eventually, after many generations, the changes would be so great that a new species would exist. In this way, a single species could divide into two or more new ones. This was called the process of evolution by natural selection. When Darwin returned to England, he studied plants and animals in more detail. After much research, he began writing a book about his theory of evolution by natural selection.

When the book, The Origin of Species, was published in 1859, it was very popular and very controversial. During the next twenty years, Darwin continued his scientific research, and he wrote several more books. By the time of his death, in 1882, many biologists had realized that Darwin had made one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time. or the first time, scientists could understand the origin of the many different species of plants and animals.
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  |  8991 learners#Science #Stories

I'm guessing you've heard of the acclaimed TV show Game of Thrones. Seven kingdoms vying for power, plots within plots, watch your back or lose your head. It's great.

But you've probably never heard of a real life drama that I call the Game of Loans. That's a game Washington politicians play on young people, that is, college students, every day.

Just like Game of Thrones, the Game of Loans has plots within plots, big winners and big losers.

The winners are politicians and colleges. They fool students into thinking that by generously providing ever-larger college loans to cover ever-larger tuition costs, they have earned student's votes at election time. Why do I say students are fooled? Because it is thanks to the very politicians who promise students more and more aid in league with the colleges that college tuition became so expensive in the first place.

Here's how the game works. According to Bloomberg News, since 1978, the cost of a college education has gone up by over 1000 percent. Way past the rate of inflation. Tuition alone at many colleges is 20, 40, even 50 thousand dollars a year! So, how do you pay for it? Answer: student loans, loans that the government is happy to give you since they collect the interest. You don't have to be a finance major to figure out that all these student loans give colleges no incentive to cut costs. Instead, it gives them every incentive to raise costs. Higher tuition obviously means more money for the college.

Now students were going to college in record numbers to study engineering or computer science or biology professions with high employment rates maybe these crazy sums would make some sense. Maybe. But the most common majors are in the social sciences and communications in subjects like sociology, cinema history and gender studies. Not surprisingly these majors have very high unemployment rates, as in, they don't prepare you for a job. And these majors are mainstream! You can get a degree in storytelling, bag piping and puppet arts for your fifty thousand a year.

But here's the point: colleges are no longer primarily about preparing you for a career. Today's higher education is about teaching you what a terrible country America is, social activism and binge drinking. Hey, if college didn't cost so much the parties might be worth it, but it does.

The average student loan debt in America is 28400 dollar per borrower. Note that this is per borrower, not graduate! Big difference. A large chunk of the one point three trillion dollar student loan liability is held by ex-students who never graduated. For every 100 students who enter a four-year college only 59 exit with a degree.

But maybe you're one of the lucky ones. You got a business degree and you found a decent job. Chances are you're paying off your student loans and will be for the next 10, 20 or even 30 years! Good luck saving money for a down payment on a house or just about anything else.

Mike Rowe from the TV show Dirty Jobs nicely summarized the issue this way: We are lending money we don't have to kids who can't pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist.

So, am I saying that college is always a waste of time and money? Of course not. But I am saying this:

One, remember that if you take out a student loan, it's not free money. You actually have to pay it back. I know this sounds ridiculously basic but it's also ridiculously important. And since you owe this money to the federal government, you can't get out of it, even if you declare bankruptcy.

Two, whenever you hear politicians say they want to make college more affordable, what they're really saying is that they want to get the youth vote while making it easier for you to dig yourself into a deep hole.

These politicians don't have your best interest at heart. They have their own best interest at heart namely, getting elected. You don't owe them anything.

The Game of Loans is rigged and not in your favor. But if you're smart about your choices, you can beat the odds.

I'm Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA for Prager University.
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  |  9571 learners#Economics #Speeches

Why is the government so bad at healthcare? They've been at it for seventy-five years and still can't get it right. It's expensive. Access is spotty. It's mired in bureaucracy. And it's fraught with waste.

Obamacare was supposed to fix all this, but instead, like every other government healthcare program before it, it just made things worse. Why? Because the government is a third-party payer.

Let me explain. Suppose you are going to buy something for yourself. You have two priorities: price and quality. You want the highest quality for the lowest possible price.

Say you're buying a television. You have many options: the size of the screen, the quality of the image, the price. Only you know which one best suits your needs and your budget. And a lot of companies are competing for your business. You do your research; you make your choice.

This is called a first-party purchase, the person paying is the person using.

Now, let's suppose that either the price or quality is not controlled by you; in this case, you are buying something for someone else. You care about the price because you are paying for it, but you are a little more flexible on the quality. A good example would be a wedding gift, say, a coffee maker.

You might think, by the time it breaks they'll forget who gave it to them anyway the cheaper one will be fine.

All of us have bought things for others we never would have bought for ourselves. We care about the price because we're paying for it, but not so much about the quality because we're not going to use it.

Or, suppose that we're going to use something, but we're not going to pay for it. Then we're concerned about the quality because we're consuming it, but the cost is not as important because we're not paying for it. Any father who ever got roped into paying for an open bar at a wedding understands this program. Nobody ever orders the cheap stuff when it's free.

These are called second-party purchases. The person paying is not the person using.

And now, for the coup de grace: when it is not your money paying for something, and you don't use it. Then you're not concerned about either the price or the quality.

Suppose the boss gives you 150 dollars to buy a door prize for the office party. In a store window, you see a six-foot tall stuffed frog marked 149 dollars You think, Oh, that's perfect, let's buy it. The raffle winner is awarded the six-foot frog. Everyone laughs at the gag.

Now, this is called a third-party purchase, a purchase that is made with money that is not yours, therefore you don't care about the cost, to buy something you're not going to consume therefore you don't care about the quality.

Here's the point: By definition, all government purchases are third-party purchases. The government spends other people's money on things it won't consume. It doesn't care about the price or the quality. Thus, there will always be waste in government spending.

That is why, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, government should do only those things that a man can't do better for himself.

If 300 million Americans were free to buy health insurance for themselves, just as they buy their own life and home and car insurance, then that little gecko on television would offer us health insurance with a little more coverage for a little less cost.

And he wouldn't be the only one. Insurance companies and hospitals would be working night and day to get our business. Quality would go up, and prices would go down. It's already happened with laser eye surgery. It used to cost 2200 dollars per eye. Now it can cost as low as 500 dollars per eye. That's the way free enterprise competition works every time.

But when the government gets involved, costs go up, waste and fraud go up, essential medical services are denied or unavailable. These are the hallmarks of government healthcare bureaucracies around the globe.

The sooner we make health insurance a first-party purchase again, the sooner Americans will get the health care they want finally.
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  |  9116 learners#Politic #Speeches
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